by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
I am not familiar with the publication, The New Old North, but Kenneth Fine’s story of Goldsboro High School principal requiring that white teachers write a “cultural autobiography” is startling.
Goldsboro High School principal Christopher D. Horne gave more than a dozen teachers — several of them white — an assignment March 18 as part of what he characterized as a mandatory professional development session: Read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” write and submit a “cultural autobiography,” and come to campus March 20 prepared to discuss both.
The McIntosh piece, published in 1988, states, among other things, that “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege” and that “most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.”
The reading also included instructions for staff to follow, including keeping a “diary” of “white privilege that they notice … in their daily lives” and writing down “ways in which whites are privileged in their own school.”
As my friend Robert Pondiscio says about school culture: “Get that right, everything works. Get it wrong, nothing works.” I don’t think that requiring certain teachers to write a “cultural autobiography” is part of the recipe for creating a sound school culture.